[SEB Guest Post] Catholic website encourages “death panel” myth in order to scare readers into opposing health care reform.

With the Republican Party still gloating over its recent election victories, claiming it has a mandate to repeal health care reform, we can see on religious websites just how they came to this supposed success. They relied, in part, on their old friend the Religious Right.

In this link you will see a questioner, Linda, asking EWTN.com (the largest Catholic television station in America’s website) “pro-life” expert Judie Brown about what she should do in the face of incoming death panels. Linda believes that Obamacare, as the Right has pejoratively labeled it, will impose death panels on the nation and that handicapped, elderly and even fat people will apparently be euthanized. This term “death panels” as most of you likely know, was invented by the irresponsible Sarah “what crosshairs?” Palin and was a term awarded the honor of 2009 “Lie of the Year” by PolitiFact.

Linda, who one assumes is a Fox News viewer as well as an EWTN.com visitor, asks if she should simply stop taking her medication now rather than wait for “Obamacare” to basically kill her. ┬áJudie tells her not to do so, since this would be a sin (too bad Judie was not there to tell John Paul II the same in his final days when he refused to go to a hospital) and that she should instead work to repeal health care.

If you want to know what demagoguery is, what irresponsible means, and what function the Religious Right has in our society; this is a fine example. Don’t tell this poor woman the truth, that there will be no death panels and that rationing of care in our country has been happening since well before Obama took office. Just tell her to work hard for the cause of the Republican Party, and God will thank her. And, as Judie hints, if Obamacare does kill us, at least we will not have committed a sin by doing the deed ourselves.

If there is a God and if there is such a thing as sin (which I assume partisan hack Judie Brown does not believe in, as she spreads her conservative agenda through blatant lies to her naive Catholic readers), and if hell does exist, there will be a special place in it for the Religious Right.

SEB Mailbag: “You wonder why healthcare is so expensive? It’s not the Doctors or Hospitals.”

I’m probably going to get myself in trouble with this one. There are people of a conservative persuasion in my circle of friends and extended family and most of them have learned not to send me email forwards of any kind because I have a bad habit of hitting Reply To All when I don’t agree with the email. This was one of those emails and it had been sent to almost 40 people, including me, so my reply is going out to a lot of people I don’t actually know. That usually results in whoever the friend or family member that forwarded it to me getting rather angry about the fact that I sent my reply on to the other recipients.

The email itself is the usual Republican attempt at bashing the current administration, but it was unusual in that it was mercifully short. It consisted of a video clip of some form of testimony from a hospital administrator about the high costs of providing medical treatment to illegal aliens. Here’s the video clip found on YouTube followed by the terse message that accompanied it:

How did we get to this and why are we continuing to let it go on? Time for new leadership.

My reply was not as mercifully short so I’ll include it after the jump.

Continue reading

Keith Olbermann slams Obama and Congress over the Senate HCR bill.

There’s not much here I disagree with:

There are some out there that argue that the bill still accomplishes a lot, but I’m very worried about the provision that mandates everyone has to buy health insurance or face a fine unless they can prove they can’t afford it. Combined with the lack of controls over prices this sounds like a wet-dream come true for the health insurance companies.

Kill the provision or kill the bill.

Barney Frank shows how to deal with the Republican nutcases.

Representative Barney Frank was holding a town hall meeting last night on the proposed health care reforms. As per usual the Republican lunatics showed up and started doing their Obama-Is-Hitler-and-Health-Care-Reform-is-Nazism bullshit routine. Frank did what all the other spineless Democrats should be doing and called the woman on her bullshit:

THAT’s how the Dems should be responding to these idiots. There’s no rational debate to be had with those clowns. They need to be called out for the FOX News watching morons they are and then move on to people who have real and legitimate concerns about the reform. Who have more to offer than made-up Republican lies and vandalized pictures of Obama.

Found via Boing Boing.

Is public healthcare in Britain really that bad?

Obama’s plans for healthcare reform in the US are far from uncontroversial and many of those on the right side of the political spectrum have been coming up with various facts and figures to undermine his moves to widen access. One of the (perhaps unintended) targets of this has been Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), a ‘socialised’ health care system, and many claims have been made about its supposed failings. But are these claims really true? British newspaper The Guardian investigated the claims and came up with the facts:

The claim: Ted Kennedy, 77, would not be treated for his brain tumour if he was in Britain because he is too old – Charles Grassley, Republican senator from Iowa.

The response: Untrue, says the Department of Health. “There is no ban on anyone of any age receiving any treatment, ” said a spokesman. “Whether to prescribe drugs or recommend surgery is rightly a clinical decision taken on a case by case basis.”

The claim: In England, anyone over 59 years of age cannot receive heart repairs, stents or bypass because it is not covered as being too expensive and not needed – an anonymously authored, but widely circulated, email, largely sent to older voters

The response: Totally untrue. Growing numbers of patients over 65 with heart conditions are having surgery, including valve repairs and heart bypass surgery, says Professor Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) medical director. For example, the average age at which people have a bypass operation has risen from 58 in 1991 to 66 in 2008.

There are several more which reveal the true facts. It’s true that survival rates for breast and prostate cancers are lower in Britain than in the US, but whether that is due to the standard of treatment or care, or down to other factors (such as diet, exercise or genetic variations) isn’t explored. In any case, not one of the major British political parties promotes the abolition of the NHS, and barely any of the minor ones would abolish it either. While most Brits, politicians or otherwise, would happily spend half an hour telling you about how the NHS could be improved, you would find it hard to find anyone who would want to get rid of it altogether.

Michelle Bachmann’s argument against health care for all? It’ll be a hassle for her. (#Blogathon)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Michelle Bachmann is just fucking nuts. She’s also selfish, shallow, and greedy, but mainly she’s fucking nuts:

Why offer more people health insurance, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) asked at a press conference Friday, if they might lengthen waits for doctors and otherwise increase the “hassle factor” for her?

“That’s like having a mother bear protecting her little cubs, and she’s seeing that she has to move heaven and earth to get her child what her child needs,” Bachmann said, referring to the health care reforms being debated by Congress. “We’ll do it if we have to, but why put ourselves in that situation?”

[…] “I think most all of us here have had the opportunity to take our kids to a fast-food restaurant,” said Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.). “We want to get a good dinner, and you walk in and there’s 50 people there and it seems like everybody in line wants to buy food for their soccer team or whatever. The American people aren’t particularly good at standing in line, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen if this health care plan goes through.”

So her argument at this point consists of: We shouldn’t let everyone have access to health care because it’ll make the lines longer. I’m sorry your child had to die from an easily curable disease so that Michelle Bachmann didn’t have to wait in a long line. If you really loved your kids you’d have a better job so you could afford decent health care. Or better yet, do like Michelle and become a government employee in a position that gives you free health care of the best kind.

Rep. Virginia Foxx talks out of her ass, again. (#Blogathon)

North Carolina representative Virgina Fox (Republican, if you couldn’t guess) has a habit of saying some pretty ignorant things. She continues that trend just recently by declaring that there are no Americans without health care:

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) disputes President Obama’s claim that 47 million Americans lack healthcare. “There are no Americans who don’t have healthcare. Everybody in this country has access to healthcare,” she says. “We do have about 7.5 million Americans who want to purchase health insurance who can not afford it,” she says, urging Congress to adopt a new plan for healthcare reform that wouldn’t “destroy what is good about healthcare in this country” and “give the government control of our lives.”

OK, technically she’s correct. No American is without health care because you can always just walk into an emergency room and they’re obligated to treat you, but you have to be pretty sick to go to the emergency room. It would be more accurate to say that there are 45 million people without health insurance, but you’re really just splitting hairs. If you don’t have insurance then you’re not going to have health care until you’re very, very sick and by then it may be too late. At the least it’ll be even more expensive than it would have had you had the insurance and went at the first sign of trouble.

You may remember an entry I wrote back in 2005 about my cousin dieing from pneumonia because she didn’t have health insurance and didn’t go to the doctor like she needed to. At the time I was just a month from being laid off from Ford and thus losing the decent health insurance I had for me and my family. It’s an issue that I’m very concerned about as a result of those two events. It’s long past time that we had a public option available to us, preferably something along the lines of France or Canada. We’re the richest country on the planet and when there’s a war or two the be fought it seems there’s no end to the money that can be found to fight them. The moment someone suggest we spend some money to take care of our own, however, all hell breaks loose.

Those are some fucked up priorities if you ask me.

Swine flu deaths: 150. Regular flu deaths: 250,000+.

So everyone seems to be in a mild panic over the swine flu outbreak that has killed 150 people so far in Mexico. This is amusing when you consider the death toll from ordinary flu:

Since January, more than 13,000 people have died of complications from seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report on the causes of death in the nation.

No fewer than 800 flu-related deaths were reported in any week between January 1 and April 18, the most recent week for which figures were available.

The report looks at deaths in the 122 largest cities in the United States.

Worldwide, the annual death toll from the flu is estimated to be between 250,000 and 500,000.

The only real concern to be had about the swine flu is that it’s a new strain so there’s no vaccine for it yet, but there probably will be before too long and in the meantime there are effective anti-viral medications that’ll work on it. The vast majority of people that catch swine flu will survive it, though there’s likely to be a few deaths given how many people ordinary flu kills on a regular basis. It’s something to be aware of, but nothing to panic about. Especially when you consider some other historical flu outbreaks to put things in perspective:

It’s estimated that about 28 per cent of Canadians and Americans contracted the Spanish flu. Worldwide, an estimated 2.5 per cent of the sick died of complications, which made the pandemic one of the most lethal flu outbreaks in recorded history. Certainly it was one that imprinted itself upon human consciousness for several generations.

But there’s another way to look at those statistics. You might observe, for example, that they mean that even during the worst ravages of the 1918 flu, 97.5 per cent of those infected survived and recovered. Or that 72 per cent of the population—even in the absence of the sophisticated public health planning and infrastructure that Canada and the U.S. have since built—was not infected during the pandemic.

So, even if we had a repeat of the 1918 flu, the chances were seven out of 10 that you wouldn’t catch it and if you did, the odds were better than nine out of 10 that you’d survive.

You want a pandemic to panic about? How about panicking a little over AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has led to the deaths of more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, in 2007 the AIDS pandemic killed an estimated 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children. In 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people lived with the disease worldwide, with an estimated 2.5 million people newly infected in 2007. This has been attributed to lack of access to antiretroviral treatment in huge areas such as the continent of Africa, where less than 10 percent of infected are reported to have access to it. The pandemic is not homogeneous within regions, with some countries more afflicted than others. Even at the country level, there are wide variations in infection levels between different areas. The number of people living with HIV continues to rise in most parts of the world, despite the implementation of prevention strategies. Sub-Saharan Africa remains by far the worst-affected region, with an estimated 22.5 million people living with HIV at the end of 2007, 68% of the global total. South & South East Asia have an estimated 12% of the global total.

Now that’s something to get a little panicky about.

New study reveals 1 out of 3 Americans without health insurance in last 2 years.

That’s roughly 86.7 million people. That’s up from the 45 million I wrote about back in 2005 when my cousin drowned on her living room couch because she didn’t have health insurance to go to the doctor. Over the last two years one-third of Americans spent at least part of that time without any health insurance:

The study, commissioned by the consumer health advocacy group Families USA, found 86.7 million Americans were uninsured at one point during the past two years.

Among the report’s key findings:

• Nearly three out of four uninsured Americans were without health insurance for at least six months.

• Almost two-thirds were uninsured for nine months or more.

• Four out of five of the uninsured were in working families.

• People without health insurance are less likely to have a usual doctor and often go without screenings or preventative care.

“The huge number of people without health coverage is worse than an epidemic,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a press release. “Inaction on health care reform in 2009 cannot be an option for the tens of millions of people who lack or lose health coverage each year … the cost of doing nothing is too high.”

There really isn’t a good excuse for this. There are several examples of national health care elsewhere that work pretty well. Japan has a pretty good system that would be worth emulating to some degree as does France.

But according to some Republicans, you don’t have a right to health care. They consider it a privilege not everyone deserves:

Today, President Obama is hosting a summit to discuss reforming the nation’s health care system with “about 150 elected officials and representatives of groups that have much at stake in the outcome.” In response, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) went on MSNBC to explain his opposition to Obama’s stated goal of comprehensive health care reform, arguing that health care is “a privilege,” not a right:

WAMP: Listen, health care a privilege. […]

MSNBC: Well, it’s a privilege? Health care? I mean if you have cancer right now, do you see it as a privilege to get treatment?

WAMP: I was just about to say, for some people it’s a right. But for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right.

Wamp went on to claim that many Americans are uninsured by choice because they “rejected” the insurance plan offered by their employers. Asked to respond to Wamp, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) remarked “Well my reaction is that it was said by somebody who has a really good health [insurance] plan as a member of the House of Representatives.” “More importantly than that [health care] is a right in this country,” Brown concluded.

It is true that access to health care isn’t a right in America as enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but I think it’s time it should be. Too many people are without health insurance and too many more are under insured. Obama looks like he’s serious about changing those facts. And the Republicans are already lining up to obstruct it in any way that they can. Why do the Republicans hate America?

Group gathering signatures for amendment for universal Michigan health care.

The folks at the Michigan Messenger blog (a great blog for any fellow Michiganders who want to keep up with the goings on in the state) have an entry up about a petition drive to get a universal health care amendment added to the state’s constitution:

“We are certainly creating a lot of excitement across the state,” said Valerie Przywara, a field organizer with Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network, a statewide network that promotes comprehensive health care.

John Freeman, chairman of the of the ballot committee, said political leaders in Washington and Lansing have failed to deal with a broken health care system. The constitutional amendment, he said, would require that state leaders craft a “Health Care Security Plan” that ensures that people who currently have health insurance won’t lose it, provides health insurance coverage for those without it and controls and reduces health costs.

“Far too many people are one serious accident or a pink slip away from bankruptcy and losing their health care, and that’s wrong,” Freeman said last week. “No one that works hard and plays by the rules should have their families or business cast into financial ruin because they don’t have access to affordable health care.”

The petition drive has picked many supporters, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Also supporting the drive are more than two dozen organizations, including the Service Employees International Union, AARP Michigan, Michigan Unitarian Universal Social Justice Network, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Michigan Disability Rights Coalition and the Michigan Osteopathic Association.

U.S. manufacturers, especially automakers, are finding it hard to compete globally because of the high cost of supplying health care to employees and retirees. Foreign governments are helping foreign auto companies compete by providing health care for employees to make their cars cheaper and U.S. cars more expensive. There are also an estimated 750,000 to 1 million Michigan residents with no health care at all.

I have to admit that with the state’s economy in the shape it’s in now that it’s hard to imagine how we could possibly pull something like that off without driving the state into bankruptcy, but damn if I don’t think it’s something the state could really benefit from if we could find a way to do it. If I come across any of the petitioners I’ll probably add my signature to the list.